Contrary to popular belief, Tadej Pogačar can be beaten at the Tour de France, but it requires his rivals to be brave and be willing to lose it all.
That is what Andy Schleck, winner of the race in 2010, is calling on Jonas Vingegaard and Geraint Thomas et al. to do when the race resumes on Tuesday following its first proper rest day in the Alps on Monday.
In 2011, Schleck famously attacked 60km from the line on stage 18, and at one point had a near four-minute gap to his GC rivals Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador before Evans was able to bring him back slightly. The Luxembourger, however, still won the stage and moved from fourth to second overall, upgrading to yellow the day after but eventually settling for second place in Paris.
Asked if the current race needs another audacious attack in the mountains of 60km, Schleck told Cycling Weekly: "Or maybe even more. Honestly, let’s fantasise a little bit. If you put Geraint Thomas out there on the Col du Lautaret [that the Tour goes over on both stages 11 and 12], there’s three other guys who can pull the same watts on the Lautaret as him.
"So, naturally, if he goes, only the team leaders can pull back time. That’s what I did. I was not like 'now I go' and I went on Izoard. No, I knew I could do 450 watts on the Lautaret, and there was only two more guys in the peloton who could do that, so if they didn't pull, I would gain back time.
"On the Lautaret I ended up with a four minute advantage because they were waiting behind. When Cadel took the lead, they pulled one and a half minutes back.
"If there’s a chance to go for long it’s in the mountains. The teammates and the helpers, they cannot develop the same output as the leaders. So we want to have leaders from the beginning of the stage, going out there and killing themselves, and that’s the only way I can see that they can shake Pogačar."
After nine stages, the GC race is a lot closer than what it was 12 months ago, and Vingegaard has shown himself capable of directly competing with the defending champion on the climbs.
But Schleck believes that the Dane has to be prepared to sacrifice a podium spot in pursuit of yellow.
"If they want to change the GC, they need to act," he added. "It’s a little bit like what I see with all humans when the people wake up in the morning, and they are not happy with the situation, but then they wait. Tomorrow will maybe be a better day, they think.
"But that doesn’t happen in life, nor in sport. If you want to change the GC, you have got to f**king move your arse and risk. Jonas, Roglič, and Geraint Thomas and whoever else is up there, they need to start risking the GC because, frankly, all of them have been up there [before] so what do they have to lose?
"A third place, a fourth place, it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but you go and try and change something because if you wait and wait and wait, we’ll know the result in Paris very soon.
"It’s going to be difficult but we definitely need to be a little bit more creative than what we have seen so far. I think with Ineos and Jumbo, I am not a fan of alliances, and I don’t really care who wins the Tour as I respect all the riders, but I like excitement in the race."
At 23, many are already speculating how many yellow titles Pogačar can win. So far, he remains a popular figure both inside and outside the peloton, but Schleck knows that constant domination does eventually lead to fan boredom.
"It's always like this," he went on. "We have a young champion, he's a young guy, he's good with the public, he's sympathetic, he speaks languages, he's good looking, but then he goes in for his third yellow and we're already on the other side. We are never happy."
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